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Romania

For the next thirty-some years, Romania remained stable, and then came World War I. In August of 1914, when World War I began, Romania declared neutrality, but under mounting pressure from France, it joined the Allies two years later.

After disastrous defeats for its army during the first three years of the war, Romania was in no position to continue the war, and out of desperation, negotiated a peace treaty with Germany in 1918.

By war's end the Austria-Hungarian and Russian empires had disintegrated and Germany was crushed. And after Hungary eliminated all claims it had over Transylvania, Romania was (for the first time) really on its own.

From 1918 to 1938, Romania was a constitutional monarchy, but after the elections of 1937, it became a dictatorship, one ruled by King Carol II, and a group of (favorites of the King) who had significant influence from behind the scenes.

World War II was a disaster for Romania; first it entered the war on Germany's side, and then it suffered under the dictatorial rule of General Ion Victor Antonescu, a man responsible for the deaths of as many as 400,000 people, most of them Jews, as well as Romani Romanians.

In 1944, near the end of the war, Antonescu was arrested and later executed by firing squad. Romania changed sides and joined the Allies, but its role in the defeat of Nazi Germany was not recognized by the Paris Peace Conference of 1947.

With Soviet Red Army forces still stationed in Romania, Communists factions (in a rigged election) claimed the majority of the votes and established themselves as the dominant political force in the country.

King Michael I was forced by the Communists to abdicate and leave the country. Romania was proclaimed a Communist People's Republic and it remained under direct military and economic control of the Soviets (USSR) until the late 1950s.

After being looted by the Soviets for dozens of years, in 1967, internal conditions were about to get much worse, as the country entered a most repressive time. Nicolae Ceausescu assumed the presidency and his brutal dictatorial rule of corruption, terror and human rights violations almost ruined Romania.

Ceausescu's regime of abuses, thousands of unexplained deaths and other brutalities finally ended during the Romanian Revolution of 1989, when Ceausescu (and his wife), were captured, quickly brought to trial, then executed by a firing squad.

Following the revolution the country was transformed from a Communist state into a democracy, and Romanians were finally free to express what they really felt and were free to move within and outside of the country.

Former Communists dominated the government until 1996 when they were finally swept from power, and since then Romania has taken a bold step toward a free-market economy.

Black Sea resorts, hiking and skiing in the Carpathian Mountains, and the Transylvania region (of Count Dracula legend) are international tourist favorites.

And for travelers, we can't forget Bucharest; it's the most prosperous city in Romania and home to numerous cultural venues, shopping arcades and recreational areas.

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This page was last updated on April 7, 2017.